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Sample Layering Snare Drums: My First Time With KT DrumTrigger

Brandon Drury —  June 6, 2008

I was having a problem with a mix. It turns out that the snare was way duller than we had realized when tracking. I grabbed the Waves API 550A plugin and boosted upper midrange until the snare had that “crack” and “alive” quality I wanted. Unfortunately, the hi-hat was just too much even with with lots of gating. (The gate was messing with the snare too much). The entire mix became extremely tinny because of the high end I had boosted on the drums.

It needs to be said that this drummer crushes his snare very well. It appears he was afraid of his hi-hat getting lost in the mix. I can’t ever remember that happening, but he made sure the hi-hat was loud. It was louder than I wanted it in tracking but exactly what he thought he wanted. If I was producing this project, I would have had to pull some tricks.

Simply put, I needed a way to get the crack in the snare without bringing up the bleed in the snare.

KTDrumTrigger through Battery 2
So, I did the unthinkable. I fired up the KTDrumTrigger Plugin. Tossed in on the snare top and triggered a sample in Battery 2. After some tweaking and playing around, I found a sample of a dry snare that was nice and bright. Once I thought the sample added something good without sounding plastic, I rendered it down to a wave file.

Download the KTDrumTrigger

I’m not sure why, but the output from Battery was behind by about 20ms. While I will need to find a more long term solution, in the mean time, I simply slid the rendered wav file to be in perfect phase with the snare top.

Blending this brighter snare in allowed me to get the crack I was looking for without any weird complications that I expected. It didn’t mess with the vibe of my drum sound. It simply let me blend in a little high end that could not exist originally. I was able to get a snare with crack with cymbals that did not hurt.

Cymbals and Samples
I’ve heard many drummers speak of using real cymbals and then triggering everything else. I’m big on the “vibe” of the drums all sounding like they came from the same room. Well, I’m starting to think that it may be possible to get some great drum sounds by triggering the Kick, snare, and toms and using overheads or close mic’d cymbals to capture a kit in unideal circumstances and come out with very natural, but BETTER results. (Note: In my first example here, I still used my original kick, snare, and toms. I simply layered the sample as an alternative to EQ.)

I’ve been slow to accept this sort of thing. I’m the kind of guy who likes to rely on overheads for the entire drum sound if the sound works for the sound we are going for. I think there are some great things that come from a kit in it’s natural glory. However, when the close mics sound dead and lifeless even when a drummer crushes the snare, what are our options? Doing nothing certainly wasn’t one of them and in this case EQ wasn’t an option either.

When Do You Stop Learning?
I knew during tracking that we had a snare with a lot of impact in the 400Hz region. This can be boxy, but it can be powerful. I had recently heard the Trans Siberian Orchestra use a similar sound that worked well. So I figured I’d try to learn something instead of insisting that the snare be tuned in a way to have a ton of high end on it’s own. This debate between learning something new and sticking to what you have already learned is always a tough balance. I guess it’s best to keep your mind open, learn something, question it in a session once, and see what happens. I’ve decided that I will ALWAYS demand drummers give me as much high end crack out of their snare drum as I can possibly get regardless of how “thick” of snare drum sound they think they want!.

Brandon Drury

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Brandon Drury quit counting at 1,200 recorded songs in his busy home recording studio. He is the creator of RecordingReview.com and is the author of the Killer Home Recording series.
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One response to Sample Layering Snare Drums: My First Time With KT DrumTrigger

  1. Last week I purchased myself a plugin named APtrigger. Reccommended to me by followers of Metal production eg Andy Sneep etc. For $70, it really did the job, and can greatly improve poorly recorded closed mic’d drums. Its a simple drum ticker, that allows you to load in multiple samples which can be triggered radomly, and blended to how you desire. This can also trigger midi etc. Best of all it doesnt seem to be as complex as KT trigger. You can pretty much load in the sample and go.

    I think that drum replacement has its place. One of the factors for myself and many other home recordists is the fact that it is not always practical to record drums perfectly, due to equipment and room, neighbourhood constraints. While I do agree that you should aim to get the best sound possible, drum triggering does provide a realistic alternative. It is also great for those fast paced sessions, simply stick 2 overheads and a quicked hash mic on each kit piece, get the drummer to do his thing and turn his crappy thrift store kit into a stadium metallica rock sound